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Familiarity Building: Selfless Self Marketing for the Actor

If you’re like most actors out there fighting for a career, someone has told you to get a website, get on Facebook get on YouTube, and start Tweeting. If you’re like most actors you pretty much stop before you start because you can’t navigate the negative spiral that come up: What is the point of my blog? What am I supposed to tweet about? What’s the difference between Facebook and Twitter and when do I use what and how? I haven’t booked anything, casting doesn’t even know who I am – how am I supposed to share my work when I’m only trying to get work? It’s all so frustrating, bag it. I need a new agent who can get me in the room……


If that’s your frame of mind, you’re thinking about the result – where you want to get to, and not about where you are right now. You’re not thinking about how what you do right now, with your (possibly) seemingly tiny ‘network’ of professionals that consists of people in your acting class and your mom, can lead to your oscar acceptance speech. Rather, you’re focussing on the fact that you are NOT Jennifer Lawrence, and since you’re past 23 it’s all over now anyway. We gotta change that, get you thinking relationally – also known as ‘the way stuff actually works’.

This industry runs on relationships. The more positive relationships you have, the stronger your career momentum will be. Relationships require time to develop history, familiarity and VALUE EXCHANGE. Each person on each end of that VALUE EXCHANGE needs to feel they are getting the better end of the deal. That’s totally attainable by the way – for example – an employer expects to get more value from your work than the money he/she invests in paying you, and the money you get back means more to you than the time you invest.

When you are in the habit of creating value for all those with whom you interact, you gain their attention, you build rapport, history, and familiarity, and once you have familiarity as long as you maintain momentum, it snowballs. Familiarity is your goal. The whole point of social media and blogging from an actor’s marketing standpoint is to create familiarity with anyone who can influence your career. Ultimately, depending on where you’re at in your career growth this could be anyone from someone who can refer you to an agent, a prospective agent, casting, producers, directors, network, or ultimately – if you’re Ashton Kutcher or Ellen: the masses.

If you’re an actor reading my blog, I’m betting you’re more likely to fall in the “need to be better known to casting” side of things, but no-matter where you are on the scale, the same fundamental rules apply.

Good. Stop comparing yourself to big stars or even your friends who have had a few TV Series. Then stop comparing yourself. How you stack up to someone else simply does not matter in your Familiarity Building. What you want is for everyone in the industry who is at the next level of influence up from where you are right now in the hierarchical chain to be familiar with you. As that happens, you increase your likelihood of coming to mind when the opportunity that you are suited for comes up.

You want casting (or directors or producers or whoever is next up the chain for you) to think of you when they are creating a character breakdown. This takes time. Especially if all you are relying on is the hard work of your agent. Remember your agent takes 15%, so you are responsible for 85% of the work! Historically it took face time or media time. For an actor starting out, that meant two or three auditions at 2 or three minutes each per year. Tough to make an impression quickly doing that.

But, today – as in right now – the opportunity exists to become known to (familiar with) your tribe. This industry is SMALL. You are part of it. On average, there are less than 2 degrees of separation between you and anyone in the industry you need to know. Admittedly, that’s a guess on my part, but I’m very comfortable saying that most of the time you “know someone who knows the someone”. Just look at how quickly #SaveBCFilm came together if you want proof.

People talk. People share. If you build your familiarity with all of the folks within your own network (start with inviting all the industry peeps in your 500 Facebook friends to like your Actor Page ) proactively sharing and ADDING VALUE to their lives, you will stick in their mind. You will come up in conversation, and your network will expand. As that happens you will build momentum for opportunities, and as you do that, you will push your career forward.

SO.. how does one add value?

Right, that’s the question, isn’t it. This is very much a theme to my acting and teaching career philosophy. If you’ve read my post The Thing About Booking Commercials you’ll see that’s basically the whole point – book more by adding value to everyone involved in the process. It works. Every time I go out to an audition it seems someone comments on my blog, or asks my opinion about the industry, auditioning, how to get an agent – whatever. That’s because they are familiar with the fact that I’m in the practice of helping. I only really launched this blog two months ago, and I’m floored with how often someone mentions it to me.

Actors get caught up with who they want people to see them as, or what that branding guru said they should pitch themselves as or whatever they think they are supposed to be. Fuck that. Yes, I used the F word. Seriously, fffffforget that. Forget about ‘being something’ to those people out there and think about DOING SOMETHING FOR THEM. We (your audience) have had enough of people shoving identities down our throats. We’re full. We’re busy, we don’t have time to pay attention, we don’t care. Harsh, I know, but true. The world cares not who you are, the world cares about what you can do for them. Here’s a great blog on that topic (Thanks Bradley Kothlow for sharing it with me).

What can you do for your tribe?

How can you make their lives easier, better, more interesting or more entertaining? Can you give them a laugh? Can you get them to challenge their understanding of something? Can you help them grow? What you can DO for people is really what your brand is. How you affect their lives is why they are inclined to pay attention (PAY attention – it costs – respect that – give value for that attention). The alternative to PAYING attention will be to SAVE their attention for something or someone more valuable, and that’s not helpful to your cause.

What you can do for your tribe is to share your point of view in a productive fashion. Your point of view is unique and important. Share it in the spirit of making something better for someone, or specific groups of someones. HOW you make things better is entirely up to you, and should be born of your beautiful, personal, unique and valuable perspective on things.

Just be in it for them. That’s it. Fully and selflessly. Stop thinking about achieving something for yourself, start thinking about making things better for your immediate peers and your immediate industry. Do something to add value. People will choose to pay attention, because it will be to their benefit to do so. They will become more familiar with you, and when they come across something that you should be involved with, you will (at least be more likely to) hear about it.

Once you’ve figured what it is you want to share, and how you can add value, the methods will start to come to light. When to blog, when/how to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc will become more and more apparent. I’m very interested in your questions on the practical side of this, and I’m thrilled to offer some support – please comment below and I’ll be happy to share thoughts – our public discussion will be good for your tribe. Hint hint.

On that note, and to that end, here’s something: I get asked so many questions from actors on a daily basis, I propose that we go public with the info sharing. TWEET me any time with the hashtag #AskJebActing with any acting questions – artistic, career, audition, industry related – and I’ll share my thoughts back, I’ll happily offer support to you, and our sharing might just help others too. If you don’t understand these instructions, I’m sorry to inform you (not really) that it’s time to do some Twitter learning. You are missing out on some golden opportunities to build your career.

OK, enough. Go add value to someones life. They’ll add value to yours just by getting to know you. You both EXCHANGE VALUE, you both gain. Stop thinking about results, and start doing. Today.

As always, thanks for your attention. I truly value it.

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